Director Displacement
Wait, what did Tim Burton do, then? note 

"It was nothing but producers then. Sam Goldwyn..." Willy started to wheeze at the name. "The Goldwyn touch. That's what his publicity people called his picture. His pictures? Finally, I said to him, "Sam, has there ever been a picture with the Goldwyn touch that I didn't direct?"
Gore Vidal (quoting William Wyler), Palimpsest

When a work — usually a film — is better known as the work of its producer than as the work of its director. Often a result of marketing, as the name of a well-known producer may be used prevalently in advertising a film where the director is a rookie or largely unknown. In some cases, the director can also be displaced by the screenwriter if the writer is well-known (and neither the producers nor director are). More rarely, all of these can be displaced by an actor if the movie is seen as a star-vehicle.

This trope tends to happen more in America than elsewhere due to Hollywood being a very producer-focused system, as opposed to other countries where directors get much more clout. The Auteur Theory was formed to avert and correct this trope however, and it has generally succeeded in giving more attention to the work of directors and craftsmen.


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     Films — Animated 

  • Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas - actually directed by Henry Selick. Burton merely produced it. ...which helped confuse people fifteen years later when Selick's Coraline was being advertised. The marketing stated correctly that it was from the director of Nightmare. Because of the earlier muddled marketing of Nightmare, people mistakenly assumed Coraline was a Tim Burton film (in reality, Burton had precisely nothing to do with it). It got to the point where Neil Gaiman had to address this in his blog. This was probably intentional by the Marketing Team since Tim Burton's name pretty much sells to his own little niche, whereas the only people who have heard of Henry Selick tend to be hardcore animation fans.
  • If you talk about the earlier films in the Disney Animated Canon, nearly everybody in the world will think about Walt Disney. Only hardcore animation fans know the names of the actual directors (Walt himself rarely directed cartoons and never directed any of the movies). It didn't help matters that when much of the early Disney animated films were released, they were generally made by a team of segment directors under the command of a supervising director, who was himself answerable to Walt. Under that system, each segment director would direct a single portion of the film, and then report back to the supervising director so he could edit all the portions into a single, cohesive film.
  • John Lasseter is given sole director credit on Cars 2 despite the fact that he was brought in midway through production to replace original director Brad Lewis (who was fired due to lackluster material). Lewis still gets a separate co-director credit though.
  • Strange Magic is produced by George Lucas and comes from Lucasfilm Animation, so naturally, Lucas' name overshadows that of director Gary Rydstrom, who is primarily a sound designer and never directed a full-length film before.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • Everything Ray Harryhausen ever worked on.
  • Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper. Most people think of it as a Steven Spielberg film, though he was busy with ET at the time. Spielberg was on set for much of the production (and even saved actor Oliver Robbins' life when the clown prop nearly choked him to death); Hooper was battling a cocaine addiction at the time, so he likely needed someone on set to keep an eye on him. Spielberg also came up with the story, wrote the screenplay and was the major producer, also taking part in the post-production. He said that he and Hooper had a very special relationship, as he had a lot of input, and he has gone out of his way to discredit the rumour that he actually directed the film.
    • The Goonies was directed by Richard Donner but was produced by Spielberg. As an adventure starring children in the lead roles, it does seem typical of early-80s Spielberg movies.
    • Gremlins was directed by Joe Dante, written by Chris Columbus and produced by Steven Spielberg, but it is commonly thought to have been directed by Spielberg himself.
    • Young Sherlock Holmes was executive-produced by Spielberg, written by Columbus and directed by Barry Levinson.
    • *batteries not included was also executive produced by Spielberg, yet directed by Matthew Robinson.
  • Anything Judd Apatow has produced (but not directed).
  • Tim Burton also got this with the releases of James and the Giant Peach and 9. He served as a producer for both films, along with Timur Bekmambetov on the latter.
    • He also produced Cabin Boy, which was directed by Chris Elliott. He was supposed to direct, but he was busy with Ed Wood.
  • George Lucas:
    • The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are viewed as Lucas's works (and they are, in a way), but they were directed by Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand, respectively. However, this has been less true of Empire in recent years; Lucas had a very hands-off role in its production, leaving those duties to Kershner and producer Gary Kurtz. In the wake of the prequel trilogy, his critics have been fond of pointing out that the movie he had the least creative involvement with is also considered the best.
    • Return of the Jedi is even more contested. After Empire going WAY over budget and schedule, Lucas decided to be part of Jedi. He was on set for the whole film and some say his relationship with director Marquand was at points bad (to the extent that original DP Alan Hume is said to have quit the last week in protest) and there are talks about how he wanted credit as a second unit director for it.
    • The Star Wars Holiday Special is frequently blamed on George Lucas, even though he had nothing to do with it beyond writing a basic story outline for CBS.
    • For that matter, Lucas gets most of the blame for Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck), Willow (Ron Howard), The Radioland Murders (Mel Smith) and Red Tails (Anthony Hemingway); he executive produced all four and did come up with the stories for Willow and Radioland Murders, but he didn't write the scripts or direct them.
  • With the exception of The Shining, which everybody knows as the work of Stanley Kubrick, and maybe Stand by Me (Rob Reiner), all of the films based on Stephen King novels are more popularly associated with him than their directors. Unsurprising if you look at what happens to his novels... With that in mind it makes one wonder how The Langoliers isn't commonly affiliated with its director considering the DVD cover where, in massive outlined, metallic letters, the name of Tom Holland can be seen clear as day, taking over two-thirds of the credits.
  • More people associate District 9 with Peter Jackson than with Neill Blomkamp.
  • Victor Fleming is the credited director of both Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, but they each went through several different directors and are now mostly remembered as the work of their producers: David O. Selznick for Gone With The Wind and Mervyn LeRoy for The Wizard of Oz.
  • The primary creative force behind Casablanca was producer Hal B. Wallis, and not director Michael Curtiz.
  • Val Lewton produced a series of classic horror films for RKO in the 1940s (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man, The Curse Of The Cat People, The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, The Seventh Victim and Bedlam). These are almost universally referred to as 'Val Lewton films' rather than being referred to by their directors names.
  • Hero (Zhang Yimou) and Hostel (Eli Roth) were both marketed as "Quentin Tarantino Presents (film name)", owing to his production role in those films although in the case Hero his role was limited to "presenting" it to the US audience.
  • Cloverfield is more commonly associated with J. J. Abrams than its director, Matt Reeves.
  • Nimrod Antal directed Predators, not Robert Rodriguez
  • Michael Bay has had this happen a lot in recent years, being the producer of horror remakes like Friday the 13th (2009). He's also been announced as producing the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot; Jonathan Liebesman is directing. In spite of this, many people often point any flaws present in these films as attributed to him, despite not actually being the director.
  • Thomas Edison had a habit of putting his name, and only his name, in the films he produced.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn was directed by Robert Rodriguez not Quentin Tarantino. The same goes for Planet Terror. However, Death Proof, the other half of Grindhouse, was directed by Tarantino.
  • The Dilemma was directed by Ron Howard but you would think that Vince Vaughn was the driving force of the film (seeing how it looks like a lot of Vaughn's other films).
  • The James Cameron-produced film Sanctum was directed by a first-time director from Australia but many are convinced that Cameron actually directed the film. This has created the same amount of Hatedom that Avatar suffered.
  • The James Bond films are rarely ever viewed as the works of anyone other than Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and later Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. If you want to see a Bond fans head explode, inform them that Goldeneye and Casino Royale (2006) was directed by the same guy, Martin Campbell. When it came to Sam Mendes, let's say he put his fingerprints all over Skyfall and Spectre.
  • Howard Deutch directed Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, but they're viewed as John Hughes films (Hughes was the screenwriter).
    • Likewise, this also applies to the four theatrically released National Lampoon's Vacation films, which were respectively directed by Harold Ramis, Amy Heckerling, Jeremiah S. Chechik, and Stephen Kessler.
    • In addition, it applies to the first three Home Alone films, which were directed by Chris Columbus (1&2) and Raja Gosnell (3).
  • Jon Favreau wrote and starred in Swingers, and then went on to direct a number of other films, including its Spiritual Successor Made, but it was Doug Liman who actually directed Swingers. Then again, to some people the main problem associated with Swingers is the directing, which might explain why Favreau's contributions to the film are better remembered.
  • Some movies that had more than one director tend to get this, especially if one of the directors is more well-known than the other. These examples include:
  • Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman was directed by Darren Grant, but many people believed that Perry directed it himself.
  • The Muppets: The film seems better known for its writing from Jason Segel than Director James Bobin. This partly seems due to the fact that as a professed Muppet fan, he had the ambition of bringing them to the forefront again.
  • The Cabin in the Woods was co-written and produced by Joss Whedon, but the actual director was Drew Goddard (who was also the other co-writer).
  • Though the director of the infamous film The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure was a documentary filmmaker named Matthew Diamond, the real brainchild behind the film was Kenn Viselmann, whose Small Name, Big Ego was so rampant that he even named the movie's production company after himself (despite no one really knowing who he was).
  • Austin Powers is better known as the work of Mike Myers, who wrote and starred in the films, than Jay Roach, who directed.
  • Due to the success of The Dark Knight Saga, many people assume Christopher Nolan has a great deal of control over the Superman reboot Man of Steel. In reality, he's just the film's producer, and has said his direct involvement ended pretty much at the stage of story development because he knew director Zack Snyder was more suited to the Superman material than he was. Unlike many examples, this died down over time, due to other movies promoting Snyder as "the director of Man of Steel" and Snyder's name being front and center in the campaign for the sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with Nolan's name nowhere in sight despite being an executive producer.
    • Snyder would later end up being a publicity usurper himself, with his name outshining director Noam Murro's in the promotion of 300: Rise of an Empire, due to having directed the original film and being the producer.
  • Gentlemen of Fortune is often viewed as Georgi Danelia movie, but the actual director was much lesser-known Aleksandr Seryj. Georgi Danelia was a co-writer and art director.
  • The '50s classic The Thing from Another World was officially directed by Christian Nyby, but is often seen as Producer Howard Hawks's film. How directly Hawks was involved in production has long been debated, even by people who actually worked on the film.
  • Though it was directed by David Fincher, many still see The Social Network as Aaron Sorkin's movie.
  • The Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home is a messy case. Martin Scorsese is credited as director, and most people just assume he was the driving force behind it. But it was actually Dylan's longtime manager Jeff Rosen who instigated the project and conducted and filmed the interviews and gathered the raw footage. Scorsese's job was to assemble everything into a finished film. Rosen is credited as a co-producer.
  • My Favorite Wife was billed as "A LEO McCAREY PRODUCTION Directed by Garson Kanin." Leo McCarey also received credit for co-writing the story.
  • Play It Again, Sam starred Woody Allen and was written by him, but the movie was directed by Herbert Ross.
  • Any movie that comes from Ghost House Pictures will be more associated with Sam Raimi than the directors, similar to Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes studio mentioned above.
    • The trailer for the former company's The Possession has an extreme example. In addition to Raimi, it puts more emphasis on the film's screenwriters, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, over director Ole Bornedal (who's name is basically buried at the end of the trailer).
  • The Longest Day has only one name in the Blu-Ray cover, that of producer Darryl F. Zanuck. It helps the thing is an Epic Movie with an All-Star Cast and five directors, that only came out because of Zanuck's guidance.
  • Knowingly averted by Mel Brooks, who kept his name out of promotional efforts for The Elephant Man despite producing it, for fear of audiences mistaking it for a comedy film because of his involvement.
  • The notorious 1994 The Fantastic Four movie is known colloquially as "The Roger Corman FF", despite the fact that he only produced it (Oley Sassone was the real director.)
  • Home video releases of the original The Out Of Towners have generally tended to play up the name of writer Neil Simon, while making little-to-no mention of the actual director, Arthur Hiller.
  • Orson Welles would have been the first to debunk the rumours that he directed The Third Man. That was Carol Reed.
  • John Huston wrote the screenplay for High Sierra, but Raoul Walsh directed it.
  • The Wachowskis wrote the script for V for Vendetta and produced Ninja Assassin, but James McTeigue directed.
  • Sergio Leone produced My Name Is Nobody, but Tonino Valerii directed. That said, Leone did direct some scenes uncredited. After the film's release, it was promoted as a Sergio Leone film, much to the frustration of both men.
  • Cameron Crowe wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High based on his novel, but it was directed by Amy Heckerling.
  • Luc Besson was a writer and producer on The Transporter and Danny the Dog, but both films were directed by Louis Leterrier.
  • Francis Ford Coppola wrote the script for The Great Gatsby (1974), which was directed by Jack Clayton.
    • He was also a writer on Patton, which Franklin J. Schaffner directed.
  • The Coen Brothers wrote the scripts for The Naked Man (J.Todd Anderson), Gambit (Michael Hoffman) and Unbroken (Angelina Jolie), and, with the exception of the latter, are the primary figures associated with the films.
  • John Woo executive-produced and choreographed the action scenes for The Replacement Killers, which Antoine Fuqua directed.
  • John Carpenter was involved with Halloween II (1981) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch as a writer, producer and composer, but left directing duties to Rick Rosenthal and Tommy Lee Wallace respectively.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its sequel, Shock Treatment are more often associated with creator and writer, Richard O'Brien rather than director, Jim Sharman.
  • The Muppet Movie is more known for Jim Henson than its director James Frawley who previously directed many episodes of The Monkees.
  • Alan Rudolph's 1977 film Welcome to L.A. sometimes has the direction mistakenly credited to producer Robert Altman. Understandable since Rudolph clearly picked up a lot of stylistic touches from his mentor (like a Hyperlink Story) as well as borrowed some members of Altman's stock company of actors.

     Live Action TV  


  • The wildly popular funk throwback "Uptown Funk" is officially released under Mark Ronson's name, but (outside the U.K.), most people consider it a Bruno Mars song despite him being a featured artist, given his status as a pop megastar whereas Ronson is a largely obscure figure. It's somewhat understandable considering Bruno Mars has established himself as a specialist in Genre Throwbacks, with his "Treasure" being a funk disco track in the same vein.
  • "The Hanging Tree" from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is almost universally considered a Jennifer Lawrence song, as she sings it in character in the movie, even though it was released under James Newton Howard's name. That didn't stop Billboard themselves from hyping the song's chart performance as a Lawrence song while relegating Howard to a footnote.
  • Likewise, many David Guetta songs are less associated with the French producer than the guest singer ("Sexy Bitch": Akon; "Titanium": Sia; "Turn Me On" and "Hey Mama": Nicki Minaj; "Without You": Usher).
  • While most of Calvin Harris's songs are often seen as his songs, some of them are more associated with the featured artist, namely his collaborations with Ellie Goulding ("I Need Your Love" and "Outside") and Rihanna ("This Is What You Came For"; "We Found Love" isn't an example as it is officially a Rihanna song).
  • The song "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee tends to be associated with Justin Bieber in the Anglosphere instead of its original artists. This case is more extreme than most others, as the song in question became a major hit after Bieber's involvement in a remix (the original didn't have Bieber at all), and the original artists still sing on the remix. Unfortunately, the song's ensuing popularity coupled with Bieber's inability to speak Spanish has led to much disappointment at his concerts.


  • On Your Toes: While George Abbott did direct the 1954 and 1983 revivals of the show, he was merely a co-librettist in the original production, which was directed by Worthington Minor. The original producer, Dwight Deere Wiman, was also credited for "supervision" of the "entire production." (Abbott famously mocked this style of credit later in his career, when it was taken up by director-choreographers Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, as "entire part of mother played by Lizzie Flop.")

     Video Games  

  • Shigeru Miyamoto largely stepped back into a producer/advisor role starting with the Nintendo 64 generation, the last game he directed being Mario Artist Paint Studio in 1999. Despite this, sequels to series he created (such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda) and Pikmin are more likely to be attributed to him than their director.
  • Similarly, Nintendo R&D1's early games (Metroid, Kid Icarus, Wario Land... etc) are often credited to executive producer Gunpei Yokoi, who was more focused on hardware development and had little input on the games his department produced.
  • Zone of the Enders is far more commonly associated with producer Hideo Kojima than it is to either Noriaki Okamura or Shuyo Murata (respectively the directors of the first and second game).
  • For all that the Mega Man series is associated with Keiji Inafune, he actually only acted as the game director on two entries, Mega Man 4 and Mega Man X (and even then he co-directed both games with Yoshinori Takenaka). Starting with Mega Man 3 he did take on a loose role as the creative lead for the series, but other people handled the actual direction of the games.
  • The Tekken series is always associated first and foremost with Katsuhiro Harada, even though he only started to direct the series with Tekken Tag Tournament.